© Carter Haydu
The crowd of those interested in the Upper Qu'Appelle Water Conveyance Project stand in a field serviced by irrigation lines just outside of Riverhurst on Wednesday, July 25, 2012, listening to one of the presenters during the Upper Qu'Appelle Water Supply Tour.
Irrigation has certainly helped Riverhurst-area producer Neil Thompson’s potato operation grow over the years.
Thompson’s business, Rap 2000, raises spud varieties targeted for the French fry market. It is an incredibly expensive crop though, costing him about $3,000 per acre to grow. Therefore, he said, one requires consistently high yields in order to make the business viable.
However, tough as the business might be, with the help of the Riverhurst Irrigation District Rap 200 is able to produce 640 acres, selling product across North America — from Alberta to Washington, Idaho to Prince Edward Island.
“We’re pretty much everywhere,” he said, adding when harvest comes about, his business is employing upwards of 40 people.
“It’s very labour intensive; very good for Saskatchewan.”
It was, in part, the success of Thompson’s business that the Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association (SIPA) hoped to convey to two busloads of participants in the 12-hour Upper Qu’Appelle Water Supply Tour, which showcased the potential benefits of the Upper Qu’Appelle Water Conveyance Project for the Moose Jaw-Regina area for both industrial and agricultural purposes.
The tour travelled to Riverhurst (among other destinations), as farmers in that community already established an irrigation network off the Lake Diefenbaker in 1989, and organizers hoped to demonstrate that what has succeeded in that area for farmers could be expanded to a broader region through the conveyance project.
While development for the conveyance would likely take several years, according to a South Central Enterprise Region (SCER) report, the plan would be to increase water flow between Lake Diefenbaker and Buffalo Pound Lake with a canal running alongside Highway 42, a pump station near Qu’Appelle Dam, a balance reservoir and a spillway into Buffalo Pound.
For more on this story, read an upcoming edition of the Times-Herald.